What is a Booking Agent?

When it comes to defining just what is a booking agent, it is something that surprises many upcoming acts. Especially when they discover that the role is different from what they expect.

Learning what is a booking agent unveils somebody in the music industry that acts as a negotiator on the behalf of an act when it comes to getting gigs, events, or other PR opportunities

The role of a booking agent has become more widespread as the industry has developed. Nowadays, this is a role that can get a band represented in almost any area of industry.

Gone are the days of a booking agent hooking bands with local tour promoters. Instead, they are potentially a gateway to an entire industry. So what does a booking agent do?

Defining a booking agent

The term booking agent is quite deceptive regarding the title alone. The role name suggests someone who can find a spot on a local card for upcoming acts.

Indeed, they do still book acts at various venues. However, the role encompasses so much more. Booking agents can realistically represent a band in almost any area, including:

  • Securing live shows
  • Arranging media appearances
  • Promotional events

What this means, then, is that a good agent can help turn your fledging act into one that is a global household name.

Acting as a representative between a band and a commercial partner, these agents can handle all the nitty-gritty that you might not have time to handle or not be too sure about. It’s a key role many star names use at least once in their career.

The roles of a booking agent

Before hiring a booking agent, it’s important to know what a booking agent will and won’t do. After all, don’t expect them to be experts in all parts of your deal. So what do they do?

Secure spots at events

A booking agent’s primary role is to put your name out to promoters and agencies and secure a spot at an event.

This isn’t just a one-off concert, as agents can put your name forth for a host of different event types. These may include:

  • Entire tour slots
  • Festival appearances
  • Signings
  • Music video shoots and sponsorship deals

Being represented in many areas might seem daunting, but it does open up a wealth of opportunities for your band.

If your act already has some traction, getting an agent to secure a blue-riband spot that could send your reputation skyrocketing is the aim.

That’s why they will always look to push for spots that are most beneficial to your act if they see the perfect opportunity arise.

Negotiate fees and terms

Many bands find it difficult to find time to handle all the nitty-gritty in a deal. That is where having a booking agent comes in handy.

A booking agent can deal with the fine print on your behalf. So if a good offer comes up in the middle of a tour, reaching out to your agent is the best way to get this done.

They will speak to the other negotiating parties about what terms you are looking for and help determine an acceptable offer which can then be presented to you.

From there, you will be able to overview all the details and decide whether to continue negotiating or sign if you are happy with what has been presented.

They can also help amend things during a tour or prolonged event should any issues arise between yourself and a promoter.

Think of them as a safety net who can act like a lawyer should you need them at any point during a deal.

Sign things on your behalf

You won’t be able to be in two places at once. This means someone may need to act on your behalf when signing something or collecting key financial payments.

This is also where a booking agent can be handy. As an agent will have strong legal knowledge, they are often authorized to sign or collect things on your behalf should that be necessary.

For example, if you are touring in Europe but need someone to physically sign something back in the US, your booking agent can be nominated to do that.

This helps keep deals moving along and avoid any unwanted delays that might jeopardize everything. It’s a handy source to have back home when the time comes.

How to become a booking agent

Booking agents tend to make about $40 thousand per year (including compensation), making them one of the lower-paying music industry positions. However, many who want to become a booking agent see potential in starting their own booking agency or becoming a more diverse talent agent.

If you want to become a booking agent, it helps to start with a music business degree. Studying subjects like music management can help you understand the backend work it takes to connect with venue owners or talent agencies.

You can also apply your experience from other business fields, applying for an entry-level position. Real-world experience is often more heavily valued than education, especially if you have strong communication skills to supplement those educational weaknesses (which you can learn).

Ultimately, successful agents have a strong work ethic and passion for the industry, which helps them work through the ranks of their industry. This can lead them to grow in the current industry or expand into extra entertainment industries, deepening their experience and connections with a powerful music career.

There’s no such thing as a perfect booking agent, but you can start small by connecting bands you know with local venues. Eventually, your work through making these connections will spread, helping people understand how you provide music performance opportunities to bands and talent to venue owners.

Of course, if you prefer to be the one playing the music, the rest of this article will clarify more of what you need to know about how booking agents work.

What a booking agent won’t do

Despite them being able to represent your name on most things, you need to remember that there are some things that an agent won’t do should you ask them.

You need to think carefully about what you will hire them for and how you use them when choosing your agent. So what won’t they do?

Manage your career

What you need to remember is that a booking agent is not your band’s manager. That means they won’t always be the ones to make the final call regarding some deals you are involved in.

For example, they won’t touch record deals or anything that might impact the band’s future.

They will instead guide you back to your band manager, who is usually primarily responsible for those deals and major decisions.

You will find that booking agents and band managers might work together often, but they are separate entities with separate roles.

Take the fall for your actions

Even though an agent will represent your act, you will still need to take responsibility for a deal and honor anything in a contract.

Should you decide to pull out of a deal or act out in breach of a contract, you will need to be the one that takes responsibility.

It is up to you to know exactly what is in a deal and any clauses that may be put in there. Should something happen on tour, it would be up to you to take the consequences, not your agent.

Not pulling your weight within a deal could lead to unnecessary strain between you and your agent, hindering your reputation with prospective commercial partners and the industry.

What to look for in a good booking agent?

When selecting a good booking agent, you must research and be thorough before selecting an agent that’s right for you.

With that in mind, there are a few things you ought to consider when searching for the right agent for your needs. So what should you look for in a good booking agent?

Excellent contact base

When it comes to good booking agents, they know everyone and anyone in the industry. At least, that is what you want to discover.

A good booking agent should know who to reach out to as soon as they agree to represent you. By having a large contact base, your chances of getting a good deal increase exponentially.

Not only will they know where your act might slot in within the industry, but they will also be able to find potential opportunities you didn’t know existed.

When meeting with prospective agents, don’t be scared to ask who they know and see if their networks are ready to move you forward in the right direction.

Look at their track record

Good booking agents will not be shy about showcasing their client base. As soon as you meet them, ask who they have worked with.

If they can comfortably show their track record to you, then it gives you a good indication of what you might achieve with them working alongside you.

Furthermore, you can always chat with other bands or artists to see if the stories check out and what success they had while working with them.

A booking agent will often represent acts from the same label or management base working as part of a larger agency. This means it won’t be difficult to determine how well a partnership is with a particular agent in particular areas.

Be happy to negotiate

When it comes to fees, it can be tricky to know what the right price for an agent is. However, you should be encouraged if they want to negotiate the amount they are worth.

You will find that worthwhile agents don’t just work on a flat fee or amount. Instead, they will look for a certain percentage of fees paid to the band.

Normally, this amount sits in the 10-15% marker, and you are more than entitled to negotiate this fee with the agent until you share common ground.

Try to avoid agents that offer a concrete offer for everything they handle. By offering one concrete price, the agent shows that they are only willing to do so much for your act and won’t go the extra mile.

Knowing this could potentially jeopardize any waiting deal, look elsewhere and find someone willing to put in the time and effort to find the right deal for you.

Agency or Solo?

The last thing to remember is that most booking agents will work as part of a larger company or firm. This means that you need to research the bigger picture from time to time.

If your preferred choice is working for an agency, make sure they don’t have conflicting interests with anyone involved within your band.

Should there be any conflicting problems – such as an agent belonging to a rival agency as your manager – you might need to look elsewhere to avoid any legal issues further down the line.

At the same time, you might be able to consider looking at an agent who represents themselves. These individuals will often be pricier than one with an agency but will have a track record that is second to none.

Those agents will likely have little free time or room for new clients however, getting on their books can be a catalyst to superstardom.

Take some time when looking at the options provided to you and see whether working with an agent connected with a larger network is more suited than picking out someone who represents themselves.

Reaching out further: look for booking agents with connections outside of the music industry

One thing to remember about booking agents – they do not just work within the music industry. They are a great way to branch out to areas you might not think possible.

It’s here where a booking agent can be the key to breaking into global stardom. After all, it is likely that booking agents will have contacts with key commercial partners in a host of different industries.

Whether it be large corporations looking for new acts to sponsor or securing spots on national TV shows, booking agents are best suited to secure these spots.

Don’t be afraid to embrace these opportunities should they come along. A good booking agent will be more than comfortable creating a deal and handling any basic legal entities that may crossover over different industries.

If you can break into new thresholds, having a good booking agent to help cover your rapidly-increasing fanbase is more than ideal.

Wrap up

As you can see, hiring a good booking agent is a key part of building a management team that can help take your act to the next level.

Not only will they be able to give you key headlining slots, but they will also be the person that helps get your name out there to new commercial partners across the music realm.

Knowing they can not only help negotiate contracts but act as a trusted partner can also give you added comfort that you can go on tour and have someone back at home to handle any matters involving deals.

It’s imperative that you do thorough research and chat with labelmates and other industry personnel to get a true feeling of what a booking agent is capable of.

Once you have done this and seen where they might take you, you can then do some negotiating of your own to get them on your side and represent your name.

From here, your band could be propelled to superstardom just purely by knowing just what is a booking agent and what they are capable of. 

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